One of Clara's working drawings

Pottering about – our first adventure in collecting buildings

Hello, our names are Clara and Rosie and we are two of the new Curatorial Assistants working at Beamish. Here, at the Museum we not only collect interesting objects from the North East, but architectural elements and sometimes entire buildings.  As a part of the continued development of the Museum, we were given the task of collecting a potting shed from West Boldon in County Durham.  What makes this particular potting shed remarkable is the bricks that it is made from – but more about those later.  This would be our first intrepid step into the relocation of an historic building!

The potting shed at West Boldon

The potting shed at West Boldon

After an initial visit to the site, we began a survey of the potting shed. This rather complex process, in which every aspect of the building (down to the gaps between the bricks) had to be measured and recorded- which was a steep learning curve.  While Rosie took charge of taking measurements, Clara busily sketched:

Clara's initial sketch

Clara’s initial sketch

But as only Clara was able to understand her sketches, she developed a series of working drawings that looked more like this:

One of Clara's working drawings

One of Clara’s working drawings

From these we were able to produce much more accurate and detailed architectural plans from which our specialist builders will eventually rebuild the shed at Beamish.

One of eight architectural drawings of the potting shed. This drawing shows the facade of the shed at a scale of 1 inch to 1 foot.

One of eight architectural drawings of the potting shed. This drawing shows the facade of the shed at a scale of 1 inch to 1 foot

One of the challenges we faced, as part of the Metric generation, was working with a building that was constructed using the Imperial system. We couldn’t just convert its measurements to Metric, as by recording the shed in Imperial, it was easier to understand the building’s design features. For example, the three window spaces each measured 3 ft by 4 ft- much simpler figures to deal with than 0.91440m by 1.2192m.  On top of this, we soon discovered that the building had been put together in a haphazard fashion, with wonky walls and mismatched bricks!

Architectural plan of the roof timbers and inner walls of the shed.

Architectural plan of the roof timbers and inner walls of the shed

Indeed, getting back to those bricks, they were the key to understanding our interest in this seemingly humble potting shed. Written on the bricks was ‘Jones Brothers Pelaw’, which was one of the largest brick manufactures in the North East from 1911 until its closure in 1968. The potting shed had been in the grounds of Ashby House (now Ascot Court) that was built by one of the Jones brothers from the profits of the brickworks. The shed itself looks like it was made using seconds from the brickworks, as the brick ‘specials’ used on the cornices are rather elaborate for a potting shed. We think that it was probably constructed in the 1910s, after the brickworks changed its name to ‘Jones Brothers’, but if anyone has any local knowledge that could provide us with an exact date that would be really useful.

One of the bricks from West Boldon impressed with the name of the brickworks - Jones Brothers

One of the bricks from West Boldon impressed with the name of the brickworks , ‘Jones Brothers’

So what next for the West Boldon potting shed? Well, it has now reached Beamish in it’s disassembled state and will in the future be rebuilt to provide our gardening team with an historic setting to work in. Yes, it’s going to remain a potting shed!

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Pottering about – our first adventure in collecting buildings

  1. chris wigham

    Hi, was recently out looking for old hidden treasures so to speak and I found a Jones bros pelaw stamp for making or more specifically stamping there logo into there bricks as they made them, I’ve looked into the company but it’s hard to find out any info. could you help in anyway?

    Reply
  2. Clara Woolford

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to find much information about the Jones Brothers either. All we really know is that the Pelaw Terracotta Works (just to the west of the Monkton cokeworks) was originally run by Jones and Maxwell from 1895. In 1911 the Jones Brothers took over the company in its entirity. Over the next fifty years, the brickworks became the largest manufacturerer of engineering and facing bricks in the North-East.

    Hopefully that is helpful for your research.

    Clara and Rosie

    Reply
  3. chris wigham

    Thanks for your reply and for the info, I found out very little out about the Jones bros which was a shame as I was very interested by the find.
    to say thanks for your reply and so in the future people can possibly find out more about Jones bros than I did would you like it for your display on them? no probs either way and thanks again

    Reply